by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation
A veteran of parks and natural resource management has joined the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) team. Sam McCloskey is the new manager for MDC’s Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs. McCloskey is a Missouri native with extensive experience working in Colorado state parks. He began his new duties in March.
McCloskey grew up in the St. Louis area and was a frequent visitor to the trails and exhibits at MDC’s Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood. That part of his youthful outdoor adventures helped lead to an interest in conservation and how people interact with the natural environment.
Supervising exhibits and programs at Burr Oak Woods give him a chance to carry those influences forward.
“The nature centers that MDC manages are state of the art,” McCloskey said, “and connecting people with nature is very important.”
He made natural resources an emphasis in his studies at the University of Missouri at Columbia. That helped him earn a bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation, and tourism. Then McCloskey went west to join Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He held various positions with duties in management, oversight, interpretation, and education.
Places like Burr Oak Woods with a nature center building and its surrounding forest, native grassland restorations, woodlands, creeks, and trails are havens for people who enjoy nature. But McCloskey also believes nature centers are great places for people who have not had previous outdoor experience to be introduced to nature and learn skills such as fishing or hunting morel mushrooms.
“Our naturalists can just step outside to do programs,” McCloskey said. “They can go into a prairie or glade or visit the pond. This is an amazing cross section of Missouri habitats and the correct management practices for them.”
McCloskey said he also welcomes the opportunity to strengthen connections between Burr Oak Woods and the community, from Blue Springs through the Kansas City metro area and in the region.
The nature center is beginning its spring and summer programs. Hiking trails are open. COVID-19 precautions such as physical distancing and face masks are being observed.
For more information about Burr Oak Woods, visit https://mdc.mo.gov/burroakwoods. To learn more about programs at the nature center, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZXw.